SRINAGAR: A former Sarpanch, who renounced mainstream politics at the peak of civilian unrest in the Valley this summer, was killed by the Army last evening in south Kashmir during a shoot-out mired in deep controversy.

The family of Sajad Malik, a former Congress sarpanch, has alleged that he was bumped off in a staged encounter by government forces while the State Congress chief GA Mir demanded a judicial inquiry into the killing.

According to police, Malik, a Hizb militant who surrendered around 2005 and later joined Congress, was shot dead in Dooru area of Anantnag district on Thursday some time after the Magrib (evening) prayers. Sources said he was close to the JK Congress chief.

Surprisingly, there was no official word on the killing from either the J&K police or the Srinagar-based defence spokesperson. "In an anti-militancy operation in Dooru area of Anantnag, a militant has been killed," an Army official told PTI.

However, Malik's family members and Congress chief Mir said he was under police custody for allegedly organising and participating in freedom protests that swept the Valley following the killing of Burhan Wani.

"He was incarcerated at Dooru police station. Although the court had bailed him, police didn't release him on one pretext or other. He was brought by a policeman to Aagnoo where Army killed him," a family member said.

Mir claimed Malik was brought to Aagnoo area of Dooru by a policeman on a motorbike where the Army was already waiting for "kill", "The matter should be investigated properly by a judicial enquiry. It is a case of custodial killing," Mir said.

Senior J&K Police and the Army officials refused to speak on the matter.

However, according to some reports, unnamed J&K police officers have denied Malik was in their custody with some reports suggesting that he was summoned to police station while others said he was brought to a hospital with complaints of high blood pressure.

"He had snatched the rifle of the policeman escorting him and tried to escape from the area. However, the Army spotted him near Aagnoo and he was killed during a brief exchange of fire," reports said.

After the killing of Burhan, Malik alias Bitta had renounced mainstream politics and "pledged to work for the freedom movement in Kashmir" at a freedom rally organised close to his Batagund home near Verinag spring which feeds Jehlum river, sources said.

His body has been kept at Dooru police station with a pall of gloom descending on his native village. The victim reportedly belongs to a poor family. Mourners are pouring into the village where security has been beefed up to prevent law and order problems.

Meanwhile, protests broke out in the village with activists of the Congress party clashing with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party workers.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)